If you want to understand what institutions people truly trust, pose an existential threat. That, more or less, is what a year of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated. And now that it is being brought under some semblance of control, some of those institutions are seeing their role as trusted information providers erode along with it -- especially media and brands.
That's the finding of PR giant Edelman's latest in a series of ongoing tracking studies researching how the pandemic has impacted perceptions of trust of major institutions including government, healthcare professionals, media and even consumer brands -- the latter of which it seems, benefited from could well be called "The COVID Bump," but are now seeing consumer trust perceptions beginning to erode.
Major news organizations, in particular, have seen their role as the go-to source of information about COVID-19 erode 21 percentage points -- falling from nearly two-thirds of Americans depending on them for pandemic information to just 42% currently.
That's the biggest fall-off of any major institution as a trusted source of information about COVID-19, although both the Center for Disease Control and the national government have also declined as trusted sources of COVID information, while local sources -- especially respondents' own doctors, local healthcare facilities and local governments -- have soared as trusted sources.
While Edelman did not explicitly ask Americans to rate brands as sources of information about the pandemic, it did ask whether they felt brands have been "responding more quickly and effectively to the pandemic than the government is."
How well a brand responds to this crisis will have a huge impact on consumers' likelihood to buy that brand in the future, which declined from nearly two-thirds of Americans to less than half.
On the bright side, consumer perceptions about the role brands play in the pandemic also may not be as consequential as they were a year ago.
Asked whether "how well a brand responds to this crisis will have a huge impact on my likelihood to buy that brand in the future," only 44% of Americans now agree with that statement, versus 61% a year ago.
The bottom line, notes Edelman's research: "Brand response still critical, but less acute."